Playwright, author, journalist, and human rights activist Karim Alrawi has won the inaugural Prize for Best New Fiction presented by HarperCollins Canada and The Cooke Agency in partnership with the University of British Columbia’s creative-writing program. Alrawi won for his manuscript Book of Sands, a novel about a young father forced to flee Cairo after mistakenly becoming involved in a political demonstration during the Arab Spring.
“We are honoured to be publishing a first novel by a writer of such distinction from the UBC MFA program,” said Iris Tupholme, vice-president, executive publisher, and editor-in-chief at HarperCollins Canada. “Among many strong submissions, this novel stood out in its scope and its achievement in capturing so vividly a personal story set amidst the Arab Spring.”
The new annual prize awards the winner with a book deal from HarperCollins Canada, as well as literary representation from The Cooke Agency. The prize is open to current students and alumni of UBC’s creative-writing program. Alrawi graduated from the program this year.
Despite being a first-time novelist, Alrawi has extensive experience as a writer. He has published two children’s books (including 2011’s The Mouse Who Saved Egypt) and has written and produced dozens of plays. He is the former editor-in-chief of Arabica, a controversial culture and current affairs magazine for Arab-Americans. Alrawi taught playwriting at the University of Victoria, and has been a resident writer at Pennsylvania State University (where he was also a Fulbright scholar), the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oakland University, and Meadow Brook Theatre in Michigan, and is currently the University of Iowa’s international writing program’s honorary writing fellow.
Two finalists will receive “an editorial one-on-one session” with an editor at HarperCollins Canada. The finalists are Michelle Kaeser for Blue Like Heaven and Kirsten Madsen for The Cantilevered Universe.